Sporting News columnist responds; two adopted African-American daughters would be disappointed to learn I’m a racist

David Whitley was out most of yesterday. So he didn’t find out this morning that he is being labeled “a racist” and worse throughout the blog and Twitter world.

This is the first line of a post by Jason McIntyre of Big Lead: “David Whitley, a columnist at AOL Fanhouse – which, I guess, is still a website – is a racist.”

Whitley, a columnist for, responded in an email this morning:

“If they were old enough to read, my two adopted African-American daughters would certainly be disappointed to find out I’m a racist.”

To catch everyone up, Whitley is under fire for a column he wrote Wednesday on Colin Kaepernick. He noted that the San Francisco 49ers quarterback has many tatoos, a rarity for players at that position.

Whitley wrote:

San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick is going to be a big-time NFL quarterback. That must make the guys in San Quentin happy.

Approximately 98.7 percent of the inmates at California’s state prison have tattoos. I don’t know that as fact, but I’ve watched enough “Lockup” to know it’s close to accurate.

I’m also pretty sure less than 1.3 percent of NFL quarterbacks have tattoos. There’s a reason for that.

NFL quarterback is the ultimate position of influence and responsibility. He is the CEO of a high-profile organization, and you don’t want your CEO to look like he just got paroled.

The response was intense to say the least. AOL even added a tagline: “David Whitley’s opinion is not reflective of the opinion of AOL, Inc.”

I’ve known Whitley for a long time, and he’s a funny guy. You can debate whether he pulled off this column, but calling him a racist is off base. People need to stop throwing around labels like that so freely.

Here is Whitley’s email to me:

The opinion I was trying to reflect was that NFL quarterbacks have been largely tattoo free. Having a humble, hard-working, scandal-free QB potentially would be a breakthrough. And old farts like me who don’t fancy tattoos will just have to sigh and accept it.

It didn’t occur to me that admitting I’m not a fan of body art would be admitting I don’t like African-Americans. I’m pretty sure the middle-aged women at the gym with barbed-wire tats that I referenced are white. So is Jeremy Shockey. If they were old enough to read, my two adopted African-American daughters would certainly be disappointed to find out I’m a racist.

On the bright side, Tattoo-gate II is apparently good for my social media standing. I’m not much on Twitter, but I picked up about 75 new followers yesterday. I hope they’re not all from San Quentin.







24 thoughts on “Sporting News columnist responds; two adopted African-American daughters would be disappointed to learn I’m a racist

  1. Wow what a heartfelt apology. Not. I’m even more embarrassed for you now than I was yesterday. You’re a so called sports writer who’s centerpiece for his column is not judging a man by the content of his character but by the tattoos on his body. You sir, are a joke. I’d like you to write an article about how it’s embarrassing for thousands of soldiers and marines to represent our country because they have tattoos. You said Archie would have made Peyton throw 1,000 extra passes if he got a tattoo. It’s too bad your parents did make you do 1,000 of something so you’d learn to think before you speak. We’re not idiots either. Your throw away comment about middle aged women with barbed wire tattoos did little to cover up comments comparing Kaepernick to inmates dripped with racism. In a pathetic attempt to make a good hearted young man, an amazing athlete, and a natural born leader a thug incapable of all those things you in turn made someone look like a no good uneducated, bigot, stereotype. And, that is you.

  2. You are a fuckin idiot….You gotta be kidding….Hypocrytical peice of trash trying to come to the defense of a blatent closet racist. By saying “People need to stop throwing around labels like that so freely.” ARE YOU SERIOUS???? So please tell me what your friend David was doing…If that article wasnt stereotyping, and throwing labels on people freely, then I must be out of touch with English comprehension…TERRIBLE!

  3. First, David, I give you sincere credit for adopting at all, much less colorblind adoptions. My mother was adopted, and my aunt and uncle also did a colorblind, and it’s not always been easy for them with the comments and looks they sometimes get, but our whole family love the two kids with all our hearts.
    That said….your bringing them up also smacks of the “Some of my best friends are black!” defense. True or not, it doesn’t mean that what you said didn’t come off as racist.
    The reason that your column comes across as racist has to do with your immediately comparing Kaepernick to cons, bringing up untattooed qbs, but mostly from a past era, and what for me was the real kicker was that you used Ben Roethlisberger as an example. Roethlisberger has been accused at least twice of rape. But you (this may have been an attempt at humor? If so it fell flat) hold him up as an example because he hides his tattoos.
    I don’t think that you are a racist. But the column that you wrote used a lot of racist assumptions and images, and that’s the reason that you got the backlash you did.

    • This is very typical backpedalling argument. “Oh I have black friends, that must mean I’m not racist.” Anyone is capable of making a racist comment, and he absolutely made racist comments. To quote his article- “I realize not all NFL quarterbacks are pristine. Ben Roethlisberger has a “COURAGE” tattoo on the right side of his upper body. [Alex] Smith has one honoring his Serbian heritage. They can’t be seen when the players put on their uniforms.
      Then there are Michael Vick and Terrelle Pryor. Neither exactly fit the CEO image, unless your CEO has done a stretch in Leavenworth or has gotten Ohio State on probation over free tattoos.
      That’s what makes Kaepernick a threat to the stereotype. By all accounts, he’s polite, hard working, humble and has never been to prison. He sounds more like a Tebow who can throw.”

      So basically you are having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that Kaepernick is both black AND tattooed and a nice guy? It’s a stupid, stupid topic to even bring up let alone butcher with classless generalizations like this. And to then respond to the backlash with smug commentary about his twitter followers only shows how petty he really is. He is a pathetic excuse for a columnist and should be suspended if not fired.

  4. Mr. Whitley,

    I’m a single parent with just as much, if not more, ink than Kaepernick. Would you like to write an article about me saying I’m not cut out to be a parent because I choose to express myself with tattoos? My ink is meaningful and a few pieces actually are for my children. Excusing yourself saying that you’re a dinosaur and using the aw-shucks defense is almost as insulting as your article is. Ignorant fools such as yourself are why these stereotypes exist.

  5. His response is almost as bad as the original column itself. He crossed a BIG line with the “looks like he just got paroled” and black QB/Leavenworth quip, and his response shows he’s standing by it all. We just didn’t understand him, I guess. The “I’m an old white guy and I don’t comprehend the changing world” column is really bawdy and lame, and Whitley isn’t a good enough writer to pull it off. Adopted African-American daughters or not, Whitley needs a big wake-up call. Maybe he should visit a prison to see what it’s actually like, instead of basing his impressions of it on NBC shows.

  6. Whitely fails to understand that racism occurs in degrees. He’s surely not the “I hate black people” kind of racist. But prejudice out of ignorance is surely a kind of racism. His column amounts to advocating that anybody who doesn’t meet the stereotypical, clean-cut, white QB image should not be at the position. You know, even if they have all the necessary skill and leadership qualities and understanding of the position. He is judging qualifications for a position (QB) on an element of appearance that is highly disproportionately represented amongst communities of color. That is, no doubt, a form of racism. Not nearly as insipid as the “I hate black people” type. But still not worthy of defending and it doesn’t go away just because he adopted black daughters (as commendable as that is).

    Nevertheless, I don’t think he should get fired (that’s more reserved for the “I hate black people” type of racism). But a more genuine apology showing some recognition of what he did wrong would be nice.

  7. Racist intent and racism itself only exists within someone’s heart and mind, and it’s sometimes hard to ferret out from one’s actions and words. As such, it might be a little much to call Whitley a racist.

    But what’s NOT in doubt is that Whitley is an idiot. That’s pretty obvious from the bulk of his ‘work.’

  8. I think there is an important point is being missed here. You don’t have to BE a racist to write or say something racist. Not being racist – or adopting black girls – doesn’t make you immune to racist thoughts/words, it just means you’re less likely to have them or commit them to print. Its like being dumb vs saying something dumb. I’m sure we can point at several smart people who’ve said dumb things. David Whitley might not be a racist. But what he wrote most definitely was.

  9. “My two adopted African-American daughters would certainly be disappointed to find out I’m a racist.” That may be true Whitley, but how will they feel when the undoubtedly discover that you’re an asshole?

  10. What a baseless, out-of-touch statement. Who cares if dude has a ton of tattoos? It takes hard work, perseverance, and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to be a successful NFL quarterback. Who cares if the “CEO” has tattoos as long as he gets the job done?

  11. Quick question, do you think your adopted African american daughters would be disappointed to learn you judge people based on their skin?

  12. Is it me or Mr. Whitley’s response make it even worse? Trying to apologize without apologizing. Haven’t I heard that before? I am not racist because I have a friend of color.

    I do not mind if Mr. Whitley plainly says he does not like people with tattoos. We all have our biases. However, we should not let our biases judge on how people perform. Mr. Whitley is basically saying some classes of people are not entitled to perform certain jobs. Football quarterbacks are supposed to be clean looking like a CEO. People with tattoos are most likely degenerates. Gee look at the percentage in prison.

    It was just yesterday when all NFL quarterbacks were caucasians. Black athletes were thought not have the brain power to perform all those complex decisions. Now, I guess, the last bastion of the establishment is a tattoo-less quarterback.

    • Stupid article, yes. He would be better to say that older people don’t respect or understand those with tattoos. To many, it represents a lack of seriousness and not being thoughtful about the long term. In the business world, for these reasons, those with visible tattoos dont get hired to responsible positions. But sports is not the business world, its entertainment…so if Steven Tyler can have them, so can Kaepernick.

  13. Racist? No.

    Stupid and embarrassing? Yes. His response made it even worse. And excuse me, but where were the editors in this whole little affair?? Did anyone working the desk ask, “Should we be going down this road?”

    Strikes me as a case of a sports writer thinking he was funny and edgy and really wasn’t. Some can pull it off. Most can not.

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